Wood Burning Oven Bakers in Asheville – Roasted beets, chevre, rosemary pastry recipe

by White on Rice Couple on July 25, 2009

wood-burning-oven-baking

Hidden amongst the the fertile farmlands of Asheville, NC are some amazing wood fired craft bakeries that are producing some of the best breads and pastries that we’ve ever had.

Maybe 30 minutes outside of town, we found ourselves on a small gravel road nestled in the green and fertile hills of Western North Carolina. The van was too tall to pass through the driveway’s trees unscathed, so we walked the beautiful 5-10 minutes to Wake Robin Farm Breads.

After snagging some wild black raspberries along the driveway, we rounded the final bend to discover a charming home surrounded by a beautiful garden. We followed the flagstone steps around to the back of the house,  and soon found someone infinitely even more charming than this fairytale setting, Steve Bardwell and his wood burning oven.

Steve Bardwell Wake Robin Farms Breads

Steve Bardwell of Wake Robin Farm Breads

Some say he is a retired laser scientist.  Others say that he can make a woman’s knees buckle with the puff of his pipe and a glimmer of his eye.  All we know for sure is that he makes divine breads out of a wood-fired oven using timeless techniques and suave skill.  His European style bread has that sublime balance between the loaves’ perfectly crusty shells and their exquisite, soft centers.  As if that wasn’t tasty enough, his character is as charming as his breads.  He speaks with such a slow, rhythmic grace, combined with his intelligence and a glimmering sense of humor, that one easily falls into a schoolkid trance, clinging to his every word.

Does it sound like we are infatuated?  We are.  Diane hopes I’ll be like him when I grow up and I pray for the same.

While we were visiting this mythic bread maker, a white van ambled up the drive and another bohemian soul emerged from it’s confines to greet us.  David Bauer from Farm & Sparrow had arrived and he brought gorgeous and delicious treats from his bakery.  Dave is another wood-fired brick oven baking maestro in Marshall, NC.  Don’t think a wood-fired oven is merely limited to bread.

Dave shared his pastry panache with a few treats for us.  He slid out a full-sized sheet pan laden with pastries that were flaky, light, and eye-rolling good.  Some sweet, some savory, but all were incredible.  Whether it was a special quality give to the pastries by the oven, or whether it was due to Dave’s skill in making them, we don’t know, but they were truly magical.  Both of these men obviously knew their way around a wood fired oven.

Dave Bauer Farm & Sparrow Asheville

Dave Bauer  of Farm & Sparrow

Meeting the bakers, and sampling their craft was undeniably inspiring.  Their passion, knowledge, and skill, combined with their throwback approach to baking created some of the best breads and pastries we’ve had. From the daily grinding of their own flours, to the rustic wood-fired brick ovens, to the camaraderie and sharing of knowledge that they exhibited, both Steve and Dave reminded us of how good things can be when one loves their craft and follows their passion.

wood-burning-oven-baking

Both Diane and I have always been inspired by our friends wood burning ovens and are now even more excited because of these  two mythic bakers.  For years I had been obsessed and fixated on bread making, but that flame had waned a bit as further culinary interests popped up and I began to learn and explore other types of cooking. Now that flame had been fanned and is burning hot. We’ve always been wanting for the longest time to build a wood burning oven of our own.  Now it is the time to do just that. We’d love to hear from any and all who have experience in such matters as making or cooking in a wood-fired oven.

Thank you again to Dodie, Sherida, Steve, Dave and Jaden for this wonderful blogger trip!

-Todd

asheville NC wood burning oven bakers

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Roasted Beets, Rosemary & Chevre Pastry Recipe

Dave from Farm&Sparrow was gracious enough to share the filling and assembly recipe for one of his delectable pastries. Many may be used to pastries being sweet, but puff pastry lends itself so well to savor fare, as well. These Roasted Beet Rosemary Chevre Pastries were incredible.  You don’t have to have a wood-fired oven to make them, because everything will cook just fine in a regular oven. Thank you, Dave, for these fabulous pastries.
puff pastry

Pastry: Prepare a batch of classical puff pastry (Todd’s Puff Pastry Recipe).  Chill for one day.
Rosemary:  Begin with 2-3 sprigs.  Strip them off the stem and save both.
Beets:  Toss Beets with Olive Oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary stems.  Roast in an oven (preferably in a heavy dutch oven) until you can insert a knife through it easily.  Pull from oven and let cool.  Once cooled, peel the skins and slice beets into 1/4″ slices.
Assembly:
  • Roll out puff pastry to approximately 1/4″ thickness.  Using round and star shaped cookie cutters, cut into equal numbers of each.  Arrange the circle pastry sections on a sheet pan.  Brush with egg white.
  • Place a Tablespoon of fresh chevre on each pastry section.  Followed by 2 slices of beet.  Garnish with a few rosemary leaves, sea salt, and black pepper.  Enclose from above with the star sections, pinching at the seams.
  • Brush with egg wash and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes in a 450 degree oven.  (We use a wood-fired brick oven.  If you are using a home oven, you may want to watch the pastries and reduce heat to 425degrees if pastries brown to quickly.)
Remove, eat.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Miakoda July 25, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Sounds like you stepped into a beautiful fairytale and found it was real :) I’m going to enjoy reading about your adventures with creating and baking in your very own wood burning oven. Good luck!

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2 Simone (junglefrog) July 26, 2009 at 6:52 am

What a wonderful setting for making your own bread! I can understand why you would want to have your own woodburning oven! I can’t help you in giving any tips, but am looking forward to reading about your bread baking adventures!

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3 Caitlin July 26, 2009 at 8:02 am

Those pastries do sound wonderful! I agree with Miakoda though – it sounds like a fairytale, too good to be true!

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4 Greg July 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

Nice.

PS – Exceptional photography in this post!

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5 Food Woolf July 26, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Well, I guess I’m going to need to add Asheville to my list of places I HAVE to visit for the food! What an incredible profile on the bakery/baker. Your photos bring me into the story and make me want to nibble on every buttery and flaky morsel!

Another inspiring food story!

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6 Lori Lynn July 26, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Go for it!
LL

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7 Hélène July 26, 2009 at 8:32 pm

For the longest time I have been wanted a wood-fired brick oven. Maybe someday if we move out in the country. We can’t built one in the city. Hope you’ll get more info about it. I’m very interested.

What a great trip. Beautiful pictures, we feel we were there with you. Thanks!

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8 Holly July 26, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Our best friend built his own oven. In this article he shares some of his resources.
shareyourtable.com/featues/2008/how_bread_begins
Your beet pastry looks lovely.

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9 Bren July 27, 2009 at 7:51 am

this is all so romantic and sexy. not too far from Atlanta, and I’ve yet to visit. Need to make that happen. My parents say it’s wonderland.

Hope ur better than well. Haven’t connected in a bit.

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10 Sherida (@Foodtopia) July 27, 2009 at 8:43 am

Beautiful photography! Makes me wish we were back there, enjoying another early morning walk through the woods and pastures!

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11 Dodie @AshevilleTravel July 27, 2009 at 11:01 am

Thanks for reminding me of my new favorite savory treat AND the latest addition to my “last meal list” …beets, chevre, rosemary in a crusty, heavenly pastry. Mmm! Glad to hear Todd is making strides to be Steve “when he grows up” w/ plans for an oven. For the time being, I’m content w/ stalking Steve and Dave at our local tailgate markets.

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12 Leah July 27, 2009 at 11:08 am

My mouth is watering and my heart is wishing I had a bigger yard to build my own wood-burning oven (it’d make baking in the summer much more likely). How’s yours coming ;-)

I love all of these Asheville stories. The people are so passionate and humble and creative; it’s inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

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13 Tartelette July 27, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Beautiful write up and pastry! Well done! Just got word that my brother had finished his wood burning oven in his new backyard so we are all invited to Toulous! (I’d better give him the heads up!!)

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14 Shelley (Pink House) July 27, 2009 at 10:19 pm

The color of that green door behind the baker is just perfect. Must have that color!

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15 Sarah August 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm

If you haven’t yet, you have to check out Kiko Denzer’s ‘Build Your Own Earth Oven’. It includes a more natural, local and playful approach to building your own oven, and a wonderful chapter on sourdough bread baking. A pleasure read to say the least.

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